Norman musical highlights sounded great in 2013
From high brow opera to low-down gutbucket blues, Norman was rich with live music performances in the 13th year of this century. The combination of a dynamic university and lively off-campus musical community provide an ever-abundant opportunity for listening. Unlike many places, admission to many of Norman’s concerts is free. Listed in order of early to later in the year are among 2013’s many fine musical moments.
1) The Winter Wind concert series included one-man vaudeville show Ellis Paul last January. He’s an east coast man through and through but has become an adopted Okie from affiliation with the annual Woody Guthrie folk festival in Okemah. Paul brought a stellar songbook to Winter Wind that he’s continually adding to.
2) Oklahoma loves country music and Sara Evans added heat to that affair with her Riverwind Casino performance. The popular singer provided one of the best shows of the year at a venue specializing in Nashville’s finest.
3) The Netherland’s-based Rubens String Quartet played the first in a series of concerts sponsored by the University of Oklahoma focusing on masterpieces by composer Ludwig Van Beethoven. The performance was in the magnificent Paul F. Sharp Concert Hall. The Quartet played early and later pieces whose contrast violinist Sarah Kapustin described as being, “…Quite shocking.”
4) Americana album “From the Ground Up” by John Fullbright was nominated for a Grammy award in 2013. The recording was entirely a Norman product with Studio 115 guru Wes Sharon presiding over the production, recording and mixing. Terry “Buffalo” Ware played guitar for the disc and also appeared with Fullbright’s band on the Grammy ceremony’s live CBS TV broadcast.
5) The Blue Bonnet Bar in Norman’s downtown arts district gained further distinction last year as a live music venue. Long known for being a friendly showcase for local talent, the joint also hosted brilliant Austin singer/songwriter Ramsay Midwood. He played a raucous show of his originals that juxtapose themes of everyday living with a vivid dose of surrealism.
6) The Deli on historic campus corner continued their boast of hosting live music shows every night of the year. It’s been predicted that the world will stop spinning on its axis if and when Mike Hosty discontinues his every-Sunday evening solo recitals. Typical of the Deli’s happy offerings was Carrie Nation and the Speakeasy’s March set that combined the unlikely flavors of blues and punk fueled in part by a brass horn section.
7) Similarly the Opolis micro venue kept on trucking in rock bands from around the world for another 12 months. The operation celebrated 11 years of sonic superiority in 2013 with a free concert party sponsored by the Fowler VW automobile dealership. Their bill included the Feel Spectres, Poolboy, Sh*tty Awesome, Copperheads, Low Litas, Samantha Crain, Broncho and headliners Dressy Bessy.
8) 2013 witnessed the sixth annual Norman Music Festival. A few weeks ago while out-of-state a non-Oklahoma resident was heard to refer to it as Norman’s “Mini South by Southwest.” The event has grown by leaps and bounds and just gets better every year. This year Big Sam’s Funky Nation turned in the event’s most superlative performance.
9) The Jazz in June organization out did themselves with 2013 headliner Dirty Dozen Brass Band. The New Orleans outfit threatened to set Abe Andrews Park ablaze and would have had dozens of local accomplices from the audience who crowded on-stage at one point.
10) Rock band Luna Moth leader Joey Paz passed along one of the sweetest Norman albums in recent memory last year. Titled “El Vagabundo de Quetzlcoátl” it’s a recorded collection of songs inspired by and written to honor his grandfather Hector Paz who taught him to play guitar.
11) World renowned mezzo-soprano opera singer Marilyn Horne continued her master classes at the University of Oklahoma. It was a privilege to interview her and learn that she’s an ambassador to the world for OU, explaining to skeptical folks in New York and California that Norman is a hotbed of artistic creativity.
12) The Summer Breeze concert series reigned as a quintessentially Norman experience. In a midtown neighborhood park the shows have all aspects of a happy community get-together. Best 2013 shows were by The Gourds, John Fullbright Band, Parker Millsap, Hosty Duo, Chubby Carrier and the Byron Berline Band.
13) Stash, 412 E. Main St., retailer of all things wonderful, hosted the year-end holiday party sponsored by Fowler VW on December Art Walk night with performances by ADDverse Effects, Empty Bottles, Beau Jennings and others. It was a delightful end to another year of terrific music in Norman.
Big Sam's Funky Nation brought New Orleans style to Norman Music Festival VI.